(NaturalNews) Published online November 30th 2009, in advance of the print edition of Psychosomatic Medicine, a new study by Dr. Edward McAuley, Professor of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois in Champaign, has found that physical activity may reduce depression and fatigue by increasing self-efficacy. Self-efficacy has been described as the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain goals. Data was analyzed from two published studies of people affected by chronic diseases, specifically 192 breast cancer survivors and 292 people with multiple sclerosis.
While there are many studies which show that physical activity reduces depression and fatigue for folks struggling with chronic illness, what is new about this study is the suggestion that this may be a result of a person's self-efficacy. An example of self-efficacy is the conviction that you can walk around the block or climb a flight of stairs without stopping.
Wikipedia defines self-efficacy "as a belief that one has the capabilities to execute the courses of actions required to manage prospective situations".
According to Dr. McAuley, "Physically active individuals have an increased sense of accomplishment, or situation-specific self-confidence, which in turn results in reduced depression and reduced fatigue." He went on to say that previous studies have shown that changes in people's self-efficacy affect their levels of depression and fatigue.
"Our argument was that physically active individuals would have higher self-efficacy, which in turn would result in reduced depression and reduced fatigue," McAuley said. People with a high level of self-efficacy generally believe that they have control over their lives and that their actions and decisions directly affect their lives.
The research project involved self-report questionnaires from the participants and measured health status, physical activity, self-efficacy, depression, and fatigue. Also required of the participants was that they record their physical activity with an accelerometer, which is a fancy name for a motion sensor, worn during waking hours for seven days. They were again tested on all measures after six months.
The results of the study indicated that higher levels of physical activity corresponded to higher self-efficacy, as well as lower levels of depression and fatigue.
McAuley and his colleagues concluded in their findings that physical activity had a direct effect on self-efficacy in both groups and that, in turn, self-efficacy had "both a direct effect on fatigue and an indirect effect through depressive symptomatology in both samples". He said the study provides a possible explanation for the relationship between physical activity and reductions in fatigue among chronic illness survivors.
In addition to Dr. McCauley, the research team included Siobhan White and Robert Motl of the University of Illinois, Laura Rogers of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and Kerry Courneya of the University of Alberta, Edmonton. The studies were also funded in part by the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, the American Cancer Society, Illinois Division, and the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health.
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